I spoke last week at a wonderful Arts Conference at Woodmen Valley Church in Colorado. I quoted a snippet by the 14thcentury philosopher Machiavelli from his work “The Prince”. Bruce McNicol handed me the quote long ago. It has rocked my world since then. He says,
“…there is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success, than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things. Because the innovator has for enemies all those who have done well under the old conditions, and lukewarm defenders in those who may do well under the new. This coolness arises partly from the fear of opponents, who have the laws on their side and partly from the incredulity of men, who do not readily believe in the new things until they have long experienced them.”
Bruce also has recently been observing that in the 16th century God caused a Reformation of salvation by grace through faith. Previous to that, though the Word was full of its truth, very few believed it. Now, 400 years later, most of us do not struggle with a salvation that is from trusting Christ’s work alone. He says now, in the 21st century, we need aReformation of sanctification by grace through faith. Though the Word is full of its truth, very few of us presently believe it. With a buck-up theology and a sin-management epistemology we are trying to be cleansed and healed from our sin by our own sincere efforts, discipline and will power. And it has the same power as trying to save ourselves by ourselves. Machiavelli says to confront such a strongly entrenched prevailing worldview, is exceedingly difficult and takes time. We would add that it also takes communities finding each other and intentionally choosing to experience these truths together. Ours is not a new order at all. It is as old as God’s intentions. But like salvation by grace through faith, at different times in history it feels like a brand new thought. So it is with the Reformation of sanctification by grace through faith.
So, I told those at the Arts Conference that it was too small a thing for them to identify themselves only as artists. They are, and it is a wonderful and beautiful reality and sacred necessity that they are. But, I said, “You rarely bring an unfamiliar or new idea into a culture with competent, didactic theological debate. There’s too much pushback. You must bring metaphor, parable, story and anecdote. You take debate and confrontation away and give a chance first for the idea to linger in front of them before there must be a reaction.”
I told them:
-I’ve helped write three books…but I am not a writer.
-I’ve helped write, direct and act in over 20 Gospel anchored scripts to
be performed in the culture…but I am not a playwright, director or an actor.
-I’ve preached 1000s of messages over 25 years-but I am not a preacher.
Instead, I told them, “I am a shepherd and a lover, promoting a seditious new order of grace under Christ, using all God made me to be, every waking moment of my life.”
Together, this band of like-souled believers may actually get a chance in our lifetimes to see the theological culture actually shift. It’s why we do what we do and why God is introducing such as us to each other…Its all very beautiful, real and vital. And it is about time…
John, for Bruce & Bill and the gang